Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur

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Puffin, 2013. ISBN 978014133607.
(Age: 9-13) Highly recommended. Ghosts. Historical. Family. Ever since her brother Lucca stopped talking, Siena has been obsessed with collecting things that have been abandoned. Isolated at school because of the strange dreams that she has, Siena finds it difficult to make friends. Her parents decide to move the family from Brooklyn to Maine, where they have found an old house that fits the description of the house that Siena has dreamt about and where they hope things will get better for both their children. When Siena discovers an old pen in her bedroom and finds that it writes by itself, she becomes obsessed with the story that emerges of a brother and sister who had lived in the house during World War 2. Is that a key to unlocking Lucca's voice?
I am a fan of Suzanne LaFleur and loved her two previous books, Love, Aubrey and Eight keys. Listening for Lucca is just as good. It is a beautiful story, has well-constructed and engaging characters and wonderful setting and the addition of a touch of magic makes it very original. Siena's voice is delightful. She comes across as a very caring, loving young girl, who feels guilty because she believes that she might have been the cause of her brother stopping talking. In Maine she meets Sam and Morgan and discovers that she does have the ability to make new friends and in Sam she finds a boy who is prepared not to scoff at the dreams that she is having. She is also brave, deciding that she has to try to understand and perhaps change the past in order to fix the present.
The use of a pen that writes the story independently is a device that works very well. The reader finds it easy to follow the story of Joshua at war and his sister Sarah who believes that if she doesn't talk he will come home safely. The effects of war on Joshua are handled sensitively but realistically and the reader is carried along by the stories of two different sets of siblings living in different times but joined by the thread of one child electing not to speak. It is easy to suspend belief and accept that Siena can indeed communicate with the past.
This is a beautiful blend of mystery, of a girl grappling to belong, of guilt, and of history and friendship that is sure to engage readers and would be an ideal literature circle book.
Pat Pledger